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Meet the Judges

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Morgan Benshoff

Our State Store

Morgan Benshoff is the retail marketing specialist for the Our State Store, Our State magazine’s retail arm that celebrates North Carolina-inspired products. She helps design ads and emails and keeps an eye out for new North Carolina products to feature, especially handmade products. Morgan also has a background in the visual arts and shows her abstract paintings at galleries across the state. This will be Morgan’s second year judging the Made in NC Awards on behalf of the Our State Store. She loves seeing the submissions that come in, marveling at the craftsmanship, reading the backgrounds of each business, and tasting the delicious North Carolina-made foods.

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Nicholaus M. Neptune

Transfer Co. Food Hall

Nicholaus M. Neptune is an artist, educator, entrepreneur, and community advocate currently serving as the managing director of Transfer Company Food Hall, Ballroom, and Work Hall; a former partner and co-founder of Raleigh’s shared creative studio, The Assembly; and owner behind the music and entertainment firm, Good Times Assurance Company. For more than 15 years, Neptune’s work has been defined by the constant celebration, building, and strengthening of community and culture through music, art, food, and play. In 2020, Raleigh Magazine recognized his longtime community work by including him in their “30 in their 30s” feature as one who’s working “hard for positive change … to make life better for everyone in the city.”

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Christi Barbour

Barbour Spangle Design

Twenty years ago, Barbour teamed up with another area designer, Christi Spangle, to launch the award-winning Barbour Spangle Design in High Point, which now designs beautiful environments for luxury residential, showroom, commercial, and educational clients from around the globe. Barbour also started a nonprofit, High Point Discovered, a worldwide go-to source that spotlights the very best of what High Point has to offer. Serving on various boards in the community, Barbour is active with Leadership High Point and was the first interior designer invited to be named to the Executive Committee of the High Point Market Authority Board.

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Holly Aiken

Holly Aiken Bags

For more than 15 years, Holly Aiken has remained true to her original vision: designing handbags with a classic-yet-unexpected color mix, exclusive die-cut geometric patterns, and functional styling — each built to withstand the daily grind. Every bag and accessory is handmade in North Carolina and is virtually indestructible. Although she started in Raleigh, Holly’s main store and production studio is now in Wilmington. Her bags are featured in many stores throughout the state and across the country. An instantly recognizable brand, Holly Aiken’s iconic patterns and styles have created a passion for collecting.

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Jill Whitfield

Biltmore Estate Wine Company

As senior marketing manager, Jill currently manages all consumer and trade marketing strategies for Biltmore Estate Wine Company, including digital channels (email, social media, paid search, SEO, ecommerce) as well as in-store campaigns, advertising, PR, events, packaging and product development, visual assets, emerging media, and all consumer-facing activities for wine. Jill began her marketing career in 2005 after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication with a specialty in Advertising.

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Richard Kugelmann

Central Piedmont Community College

Richard is a former culinary, baking, and hospitality instructor with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry as well as personal experience being a restaurant owner in Fayetteville. With a Bachelor of Business Administration from Methodist University and an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts from Central Piedmont Community College, he is currently responsible for three curriculum programs and one CE program in the Philip Van Every Culinary Arts Center. Having earned various culinary certifications, Richard was also recently inducted in the American Academy of Chefs.

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Amy Jordan

Sawtooth School for Visual Art

Amy Jordan is the executive director of the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Winston-Salem. Attending Sawtooth’s Summer Arts Honors Program while in high school was an entry point into her lifelong arts journey. After spending 30 years in Asheville, where she ran a nonprofit gallery space and had her own business and art practice, she returned to Winston-Salem in 2007 and pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Salem College. As assistant youth director and then program director at Sawtooth, Amy established new programs while reinvigorating others, and opened new studios for printmaking and textiles. She also developed the Art and Wellness program. As executive director she has been instrumental in solidifying Sawtooth as a vibrant arts entity in the community.

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